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French, German nationals killed in Ivory Coast beach attack


Four French nationals are among the 18 people who were killed by Islamist militants at a beach resort in Ivory Coast on Sunday, French President, Francois Hollande, has said.

Al-Qaeda, in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said it was behind the popular Grand Bassam Beach gun attack.

Those killed in the beach attack were locals and foreigners, including people from at least six countries. The Jihadist attack is the first incident in Ivory Coast.

A total of 21 people, including three gunmen, three local security force members, Ivorian and French nationals died in the attack.

The attackers also killed people from Germany, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Mali, officials said.

President Alassane Ouattara visited the site, about 40km (25 miles) from the country's commercial capital, Abidjan, on the evening of the attack.

He promised that security in Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, will be stepped up.
"These cowardly attacks by terrorists will not be tolerated," he said.

He announced a three day national mourning, after he met with Cabinet Ministers Monday in an emergency meeting in Abidjan. AQIM has been behind two other similar attacks in West Africa in the last four months, victimizing hotel goers in Mali and Burkina Faso.

BBC Regional Reporter, Maud Jullien, says Ivory Coast has been identified as one of several countries in West Africa at risk of being targeted by Islamist militants.

Al-Qaeda, in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, with its claim published in four languages - a sign the group was seeking to boost its media profile to match its recently enhanced operational capabilities.

The brief statement in Arabic, English, French and Spanish was published as an image on AQIM's Twitter account and through the messaging app Telegram.

The format resembled the style used by jihadist rival Islamic State group (IS), indicating that AQIM wants to emulate IS's more advanced media operation.

AQIM said in the statement that three of its militants were responsible for the Sunday attack. The group has been almost dormant in the past few years.

Bbut it stepped up its presence after announcing in December that it had partnered with the more active militant group, al-Murabitoun, known for its high-profile hostage taking.

This allowed Al-Qaeda to claim credit for al-Murabitoun' s hotel attacks in Mali in November and in Burkina Faso in January.

A witness to Sunday's attack told AFP News Agency that "heavily armed men, wearing balaclavas," had opened fire near the L'Etoile du Sud hotel, filled with foreign visitors.

One of the people on the beach, Belgian Charline Burton, told the BBC she grabbed her daughter and ran to hide in a toilet. "We could hear them shooting saying they were going right next to where we were. It was a miracle the baby didn't cry," she said.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Several people were injured in the attack and the Etoile du Sud hotel was targeted.


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